By Andy Sanders
“Wait…what?” I could hear words, but my brain momentarily stopped working. I felt numb. Like a wildfire, fury coursed through my body as my mind still struggled to wrap around the horrific news I was just told. It could not possibly have happened in OUR youth group! Not to her! Not HIM! And yet, when time caught back up with me, I was stunned to the core.
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14 NIV)
Right now, everything on earth is changing fast. Most of our churches across the world are still running at half capacity. Many volunteer positions haven’t been filled since the beginning of last year. Gaping holes are evident throughout many churches and ministries. There can be a temptation to fill church ministry positions as quickly as possible in such an unclear time, but this can be a trap from the enemy.
What you are about to read is a true story. I was personally involved with the youth ministry in the church this happened in, and I personally knew the individuals in the story you’re about to read. Though true, I’ve had to alter a few minor parts to protect the identity of those who were involved.
Things were really “popping” in our youth ministry at the time. I was excited to be a youth sponsor to a great group of young students. Our youth group wasn’t just “having church” every Thursday night; they were learning how to “be the church” every day of the week. We were certainly at the cusp of something especially rare. Being one of the few sponsors who had a car, I would routinely take a group of kids home each week. It was usually a mixture of guys and girls, so I always planned the trip so that the girls were delivered safely home first.
One specific week something very important came up, and I couldn’t be at the youth group that night, so another sponsor was asked to drive a couple of the kids home. This sponsor dropped the kids off one at a time, nothing out of the norm. However, this time the sponsor arranged to drop one specific girl off last and innocently asked if he could use the bathroom in her house before heading home. Of course, she agreed. On the way out of the bathroom, this youth sponsor grabbed the young girl, wrestled her to the ground, and brutally raped her on the living room floor of her home. This pure young girl had been saving herself for that special man she would marry someday, but life as she once knew it was completely shattered that cruel evening.
As the truth behind this tragedy emerged, it became apparent that he had been “casing” out certain girls in the youth group and then sitting back and waiting for the right moment to attack. Sadly, he rode with me one time on the way home while dropping kids off from church. That’s when he discovered that this specific young girl lived in a community with houses spaced far enough apart that one family wouldn’t hear the next house’s business or noise. He also found out that this girl’s parents frequently worked late at night, so she would be home by herself after being dropped off. He waited for the right moment, which was the night I couldn’t be there. That night Satan walked into her home in the form of a “Christian youth sponsor” and destroyed her teenage life.
And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 1 Thessalonians 5:12 (KJV)
All over the world, churches are slowly re-opening, and vacant slots for volunteer ministry are starting to become filled while church attendance is steadily rising again. Right now, there will be a tendency to fill church ministry spots as quickly as possible. From youth groups to children’s ministries, all the way to ushering, greeting, and security in the parking lot, holes are everywhere. As much as we want to fill these positions with any willing heart, doing so hastily will set us up for serious consequences. We must remember to stay focused and restore our churches right the first time. Satan wants us to move ahead of God on important church decisions—but this will only result in a lot of regret in the future.
As churches take on a whole new meaning and role within our communities, we must place the safety of all those coming into our folds as one of the highest priorities. We can all make an extended list of “do’s and don’ts” right now, but that isn’t the solution. Church attendees and church leaders alike must come together, helping each other create a well-thought-out plan for how to bring stability and safety once again back to our local churches. Most importantly, as we rebuild, we must make sure that we make the most room for the presence of God. If God is in the center, Satan will not be invited to hang around. Slow down and move in step with God.
Please take a moment and forward this article to others within the church body, especially those who work with children, youth, and young adults. Slow down and get to know the people around you. We will get through this together. Happy rebuilding!
Andy Sanders has been involved with international writing and book publishing since 1999. His articles have been on Charisma Media, Ministry Today, Spirit Fuel, and The Elijah List. One project directly under his care has now sold over 3 million copies. As a former publisher and ghostwriter, Andy is a book writing and publishing consultant for authors. He coaches writers through the publishing process and works at CS Book Design. Andy has a bachelor of arts and a masters and doctorate in Christian, graduating with honors. He and his wife, Cathy, reside near Daytona Beach, Florida. firstname.lastname@example.org